Everyone is out on the weekend dancing to the banjo man at the farmers markets, celebrating Spring. You’re not the one we’ve been holding out for, but you put up a good fight, so gallant and lanky amidst the new and delicate green, never apologizing for your tartness or your withered nobs. Your arrival in the stalls and tents signals that winter has finally gone to rest and that there are so many good, new things to come.
I’ve taken some notes from you this season, notes on owning it. Not being bossy. Not being prideful. You just show up as you are. Like, hey, I’m not strawberries, but that’s cool that’s not what I want to be. Folks are like WTF sometimes when you gawk about too close to the beets and fennel but you shake it off, you already know that the ones who see your potential are who you want to take you home anyway. Those special folks gussy you up, simmer you down, muddle you with booze, coat you in sugar and butter. You end up really getting the royal treatment when it’s all said and done.
You won’t be around much longer, Rhubarb. Basil and summer squash will burst onto the scene and most will forget you. I won’t. I’m going to think of you all summer. Owning it. Loving it. Not trying to fight any of it. Showing up and being real. I will try my best to just come as I am, what do you think? That’s all one can really hope to do in this life, right?
Actual vanilla bean is clutch for this recipe. Extract won’t suffice. Treat yourself.
Vanilla Bean Rhubarb Oatmeal
1 lb rhubarb
1 large orange, juice and zest
1 vanilla bean
4 tbsp water
1/4 cup raw sugar
1-2 cups old-fashioned (thick cut) oats
1/2 cup chopped almonds
Preheat oven to 400.’ Cut rhubarb into 1″ chunks and place in a glass baking dish. Cut open and scoop out the seeds of the vanilla bean onto the rhubarb. Toss in the emptied pods too. Coat with orange juice, zest, sugar, and a bit of water. Mix to cover evenly with sugar, juice, and vanilla. Bake for 15-20 minutes until soft.
Prepare oatmeal to your liking (I use part water part coconut milk for the liquid portion). Scoop a serving of oatmeal into a bowl, cover with rhubarb with a bit of juice, and sprinkle with chopped almonds.
I had the pleasure of meeting Laura through her blog over the summer and was instantly captivated by her honesty, authenticity, and food philosophy. There is a light about her too, the kind you gravitate to, the light that makes your heart feel full. I’d like to call her a friend in real life, one day. At her blog, The First Mess, Laura shares seasonal recipes that are accessible, and full of gratitude. When she sent over the writing, recipe, and gorgeous photos for today’s guest post, I had to resist an urge to make a second trip to Whole Foods for the day and pick up some dill for this recipe. This is the kind of thing I could eat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Thank you, Laura, for sharing your passion and light in this space…
Throughout my adult life, food has been there. I would say it’s been a driving force of empowerment; rather than just simply “there”. I grew up with a local produce market as the family business. It was my first job as a teenager. We always had giant tomato plants and greens in the garden in the summer and beautiful preserves to brighten the cold months, to remind us of preparation, knowledge, hard work and its virtues.
In university I began to examine virtue in depth. Along with it came gluttony, suffering, thirst, the danger of mono-crops, cultures that live and breathe with the land, famine, commodities, freedom and community feeling. In college I learned how to poach an egg, make pie pastry, clean and filet a whole fish, sharpen a knife and how to convert ounces to grams.
Working in restaurants tends to develop ones education greatly, regardless of the seeming triviality of any given task. I’ve learned that no one is ever too good to slice a pear or scrub a pot. Your reasons for pursuing the industry? To serve others, to fill their bellies and delight them completely. Repetitive, lower skill set tasks are a bit part of that dining room experience. It’s never about you, not even for a second. If serving others means something to you, and it pays your bills, do it well.
I still learn things all the time. When I started assisting with a youth program that focused on empowerment through food education, I realized how unusual my own upbringing was. The constant presence of fresh food, the every-night family dinners, a big garden in the summer and a jammed cellar in the winter, a job, a sense of community at the table, everything. It made me incredibly grateful and hopeful at the same time. I was awe-struck by these kids reaching for all of the built-in facets of my upbringing on their own because they could see and feel the inherent good in all of them independently.
You know what else blew me away? This amazing grain salad that I learned how to make when I was there. It’s more of a technique that you develop and work with according to the season as opposed to a prescribed recipe. A handful of dill one time, cilantro for the next batch. Walnuts and chopped fennel or mango and sesame seeds, whatever you like. As you develop your own take, share it with others and enjoy it over time, you will definitely start to feel quite mighty. I promise.
2 cups finely diced vegetables (I used shallots, carrots and fennel)
2 cups beans or lentils (I used red lentils)
2-3 stalks of leafy greens, chopped fine (I used lacinato kale)
1 heaped handful of chopped fresh herb (I used dill)
1 handful of toasted nuts or seeds (I used walnuts)
1 handful of dried fruit (I used currants)
1 handful of crumbled soft cheese (I used sheep’s milk feta)
¼ cup oil (I used extra virgin olive oil)
¼ cup acid (I used a mix of orange juice and apple cider vinegar)
salt and pepper to taste
optional: 1-2 tsp ground spices (I used some ground coriander)
Combine the grain, vegetables, lentils, chopped herbs, leafy greens, nuts, dried fruit and cheese in a large bowl. Mix the oil, acid, spices, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Pour mixture over the grain and vegetable mixture and toss to combine. Taste for seasoning and serve.
My parents never arranged a separate kid’s table and a grown-ups table during holiday meals. The youngsters ate what the adults ate and participated in the same rituals of passing the biscuits, hoarding the gravy, and holding each others warm, eager hands in gratitude for another meal, another year in good health and humor.
Such a simple act of inclusion, a seat at the table. An act of affirmation, really… You, yes you, young one, have a unique and important way of looking at the world. There is so much to be grateful for during the holidays, but a seat at the table has been a gift I’ve probably undervalued until lately.
Respect was a reciprocal value in my house growing up – give respect, receive respect. Our opinions and perspectives were encouraged but more importantly, my parents invited us to the table and then they listened. They had enough respect to sit with us and walk alongside us in our crazy ideas. I know better now, as I’ve aged, that some people never get a seat at the table, no matter how old they are. I get it now. I’ve been on the outside, I’ve seen and felt what it’s like for youth to be dismissed as naïveté. Even now when I don’t get “a seat at the table” (figuratively speaking) I remember this. I give thanks for this. What a gift it is to for people to take us seriously.
Thanksgiving has come and gone, but the table is there at every moment of each day to sit, stand, walk beside someone and give them room and respect to speak their truth. Through the rest of the year who will you invite to a seat at the table? Invite them. Just sit there. Really look at them. Hear their story. Reach out to the younger folk in your clan too – see them, affirm them. They’ll remember.
This turned out to be much more festive than I first anticipated while wandering the aisles at the market today. I imagine it would make a great holiday side, but an even better weeknight meal turned sack-lunch. If kale isn’t your idea of a party dish, try spinach instead.
Pomegranate + Kale + Pearl Onion Orzo
1 large bunch of kale (or two, if you’re a go-getter)
2 cups pearl onions
2 shallot bulbs
2 1/2 cups orzo
Olive Oil + Orange + Honey Dressing
1/3 cup good olive oil
1 tsp sea salt
juice of 1/2 an orange
1 tsp raw honey
Bring 2 medium-large pots to a boil with a bit of salt. In the first pot, boil pearl onions for 7-10 minutes. Remove, allow to cool, then remove skins. Set aside. For the second pot, boil orzo with a splash of olive oil for 5-7 minutes or until tender. Remove, strain, but do not rinse.
Break open pomegranates one at a time, massaging out the seeds into a large bowl. Pick out the little white fibrous bits as you go along. This can be a bit messy for the first time pomegranate handler, wear an apron! Alternatively, you could purchase pom. seeds in the produce section of your grocery. Once finished, return to the onions. to remove skins, cut off the bottom stem portion and peel the rest with your fingers. Cut in half and toss with the seeds in the big bowl. Finely dice the shallots and stir with the seeds and onions.
Rinse out the onion pot and bring another bit of water to heat. Remove kale leaves from the tough spine and chop until very small bits. Not quite a mince, but a good chop. When the water is almost to a boil, immerse the kale and blanch for no more than 1 minute. Remove, strain the water, and toss with the pomegranate, onions, and so forth.
Slowly stir in cooked orzo, 1 cup at a time. Prepare the dressing by whisking together the olive oil, salt, orange juice (a little pulp is great too), and the honey. Pour over the entire bowl and stir again to coat. Let sit for 15 minutes before serving.
All the credit for these goes to the amazing woman and cook, Laurie Boyte. I requested a scone recipe, and boy did she deliver. I put a little of my own spin on them, adding the berries, some ground flax and using coconut oil. Honestly, I will never turn to another recipe ever again because these are so nutrient dense and moist without any of the guilt of most scones. Blueberry Scones
1 cup gluten free flour blend
1 1/2 cup gluten free oats
1/3 cup raw sugar
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
3 tbsp coconut oil
1 cup pumpkin puree
3 tbsp orange zest
2 heaping tbsp. ground flax seeds
1 package fresh organic blueberries
Mix together flour, oatmeal, sugar, spices, flax, baking soda, baking powder, salt and orange zest. In a separate bowl, whisk together oil, egg and pumpkin. Pour over dry mixture, and stir to thoroughly coat. Toss in package of blueberries (or two, if you’re greedy like me), careful not to mash! Mix by hand until dough forms ball. Press into a circle on a good cookie sheet. Cut with knife into 8 wedges. Sprinkle with sugar and bake at 325 for 20-25 minutes.